Matt Kemp happy and hopeful about his return to the Dodgers
MLB: Spring Training
GLENDALE — Matt Kemp arrived early Tuesday to a Dodgers clubhouse he already knows and to a team he believes he can help win the World Series — if he gets the chance to stick around.
Kemp, back in the Dodgers spring-training complex at Camelback Ranch for the first time since 2014, looked comfortable and confident in his return to his original major-league team.
“I got a lot left in me,” said Kemp, a former All-Star outfielder who was in camp six days before the reporting date for position players.
Maybe there’s enough left, Kemp said, for the Dodgers to win the title that eluded them last fall against Houston in Game 7.
“I can help this team win,” he said. “I feel strong, ready to go. I’m older, but I’ve got a lot to offer, a lot of knowledge. Nobody really knows what their role is, but I’m here to win. I know I can be in this lineup, can help us win, prove to everybody I can still play defense. We all got something to prove every year. It’s a fresh start. Why not do it back where I started?”
Still, spring training opens amid questions about whether there is room for Kemp on the Dodgers roster. Chris Taylor looks to be the starter in center field. Yasiel Puig comes into camp as the club’s right-fielder. They have several options for left field, including Kemp.
Manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday that everybody would get a long look in spring drills.
Roberts likes what he has seen in Kemp, whom the Dodgers acquired from Atlanta on Dec. 16 in a deal that included Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson. He hit .276 with 19 home runs for the Braves last year.
Roberts remembers working with Kemp in 2015 when both were with San Diego. Roberts was a Padres coach in the year after San Diego acquired him from the Dodgers for Tim Federowicz on Dec. 11, 2014.
“He’s a pro,” said Roberts, who is beginning his third season as the Dodgers manager. “The big part of it is that he wants to win. If you look at the batter’s box last year, he had a productive season, offensively. If you look at the metrics, and it’s not everything, the defense has dropped off a little bit.”
“It’s encouraging that he feels he has something to prove. You should always have something to prove. There are a lot of good players out there. We’ll see how things shake out.”
As Kemp reported along with pitchers and catchers Tuesday, the Dodgers camp opened amid talk of unfinished business. Kemp has heard it and says he has bought into it.
He said he has always believed the Dodgers were his best chance at a World Series.
“Of course, I love being back,” said Kemp, who said he began working out at Camelback nearly a week ago. “This is where I came up. This is where I grew up. You know, I always wanted to win a World Series here.
“It was fun watching these guys last year play and get to the World Series. Why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that?”
Notes: A sign that veteran infielder Chase Utley is close to signing a contract were evident in the clubhouse Tuesday. His gloves, cleats and mail addressed to him were in a dressing stall. “We’re hopeful,” Roberts said. “Chase is great. I’ll talk more about him, maybe in a couple of days.”